There is considerable excitement among motorists that the new proposed expressway connecting Chennai with Bengaluru will reduce travel times and lead to a new corridor of development benefiting the three states it will pass through.
A brand new expressway is getting ready to create a path between Chennai and Bengaluru, via Andhra Pradesh. Expectations have run high since the announcement last week that the Expert Appraisal Committee of the Ministry of Environment had recommended Environment Clearance for portion of the project in Tamil Nadu and through a portion of Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.
The 258.808 km long expressway, costing ₹12,500 crore, which would allow motorists to drive safely without the intrusion of pedestrians, local traffic and cattle, a huge problem with the existing highway route, would be South India’s first expressway constructed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
Work to construct the 106 km stretch of the fully access-controlled, four-lane wide, junction and signal-free, expressway running through Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Vellore and Ranipet districts in Tamil Nadu, is expected to commence in about five months.
“We are in the process of signing agreements with the concessionaires and then they will have time to mobilise men and materials after which the work will begin. Since the land has been acquired for the project, it is only a matter of constructing the road, which will take 30 months to complete,” said S.P. Somasekhar, Regional Officer, NHAI.
Status in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
In Karnataka, work on the ₹3,500 crore stretch runs to a length of 71 km earth work has already started in two packages. The financial closure is underway for the third package. “It is planned to be completed within 2.5 years, which would be much ahead of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh,” said a source.
In Andhra Pradesh, the road which runs to a length of 85 km, has also been tendered out as three packages. The Letters of Acceptance have been issued to the concessionaires and work is expected to commence in six months’ time. About 7 km of the BCE passes through the Rayala Elephant Reserve area and environment clearance is awaited for this stretch.
Designed for high speeds
The BCE project being taken up under the National Highways Development Project, would allow motorists to reach Bengaluru in under 3 hours from Chennai, depending on the speed they take. “Though highways in the country are designed for speeds of 100 km/hr, the average speeds that motorists do are only 60 km/hr – 70 km/hr. The BCE is however, designed for 120 km/hr and everything else permitting motorists can clock such speeds on it,” explained a source associated with the project.
It would be completely fenced off, to ensure no animals stray onto the road, which would also not have any service lane for local traffic, since there wont be any. The proposed expressway facility is to be developed as a fully access controlled facility on a greenfield alignment, which means there would not be any existing road in the alignment. The road crosses built-up area only at two locations, the source added.
The existing National Highway–4 which runs parallel to the proposed expressway is one of the highest traffic-carrying corridors in India. It carries over 70,000 passenger car units per day. Due to the sheer volume of traffic, vehicular movement is considerably slow at peak hours in the Sriperumbudur belt, which is also also a major industrial belt.
P. Nandagopal of Freedom Travels said it takes around 5 hours if the road is good to reach Bengaluru. “However, it takes 2.5 hours to reach Ranipet alone. Since widening work is happening, there are many route diversions on the way. You won’t know where the diversions are, or if there is any road under the water or where there are pot holes,” he said adding that hopefully the proposed road would not have potholes and have proper drainage. At present widening work is underway in the Karapatti – Walajapet stretch.
Alignment of BCE
The alignment, which starts from Bengaluru near the existing NH-4, east of Hoskote town, ends near Sriperumbudur on NH-4, near Hyundai factory. Apart from Tamil Nadu, it runs through Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh and Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural and Kolar districts in Karnataka.
It would be connected to the Chennai Port via the Chennai Elevated Expressway from Maduravoyal. “The double decker facility from the Port would become a six-lane wide elevated 22 km long corridor so that it can be integrated with the BCE,” explained another source. In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the expressway passes through cultivated land, forests and barren land and in Tamil Nadu it runs through cultivated land, and barren land, not affecting any forest lands.
Though designed for high speeds, safety is top priority here
Keeping safety of motorists in mind, the BCE would have wider lanes of 3.75 mt each instead of the regular 3.50 mt. “Vehicles will clock more speeds so more space is being provided to ensure their safety. The paved shoulder would be of 3 mt width, double that of regular highways. The median would be of 21 mt width and be depressed, like a valley in the midst of two roads. This space could be used to widen the road in the future,” explained Mr. Somashekar.
A third eye would always keep constant watch for over-speeding. “We will monitoring using CCTV. However, if there is over-speeding the agency that maintains the road cannot take any punitive action. It would be the job of the police to enforce the rule,” said another source.
How is the BCE expressway different from a regular highway?
Apart from avoiding towns, villages, religious and historic monuments, environmentally sensitive areas, forests etc, expressways are usually junction-free and access-controlled, meaning more safety for road users. Though designed for higher speeds, allow motorists to maintain speeds throughout the drive, ensuring that those who wish to keep their time not be forced to make excuses for the bad traffic. Expressways do not enter habitations and would help vehicles to be fuel efficient thus bringing down transport costs.
The BCE would have toll plazas only at entry and entry points and it would have something called closed tolling by which motorists would only have to pay for the length that they travel. “Since we have defined entry/exit points, the fee collected would be pre-determined. In regular highways, even if you only use say 5 km of a tolled road, you would have to pay for the entire stretch covered by that contactor,” explained another source.
Larger economic effects
The project’s main aim, which is to reduce travel time between Chennai and Bengaluru, will have a larger economic effect, as it will lead to savings on fuel, man hours and costs, according to Suresh Krishna, State President, CREDAI Tamil Nadu.
Mr. Krishna said if this was extrapolated over one year, the number of man hours saved would be quite significant. “The project will also increase economic activity in the region by opening up new areas for industrial development. There is potential for manufacturing facilities, warehousing facilities along the corridor. Also, the project will be closer to the port and will facilitate easy cargo movement on the corridor,” he said.
Further, the corridor could become a growth corridor just like how Sriperumbudur and Oragadam were. The benefit of the project would be exponential, he added.
If industrial development happened in that corridor, residential areas would also grow. For every 1,000 direct jobs, 3,000 indirect jobs are created, and when industrial development happens, it requires human capital who would want to be closer to the workplace leading to development of housing facilities, he said. A resultant addition would then happen in terms of creation of healthcare facilities, schools, restaurants and shopping facilities, he said.
C. Devarajan, Convenor, Infrastructure Panel, CII, said with Bengaluru being a major textile sourcing hub for exports, there is a need for access to a port which the corridor will provide through Chennai. “A number of districts will also be connected through the project. In many of the districts, there are clusters of industries which will see growth when the corridor is ready,” he said.
“Some of the possibilities are textile, agriculture, healthcare hubs coming up on the corridor. It can be specialised or a combination of different things,” he said.
Though at present, no industrial corridors or special zones are being planned along the alignment, the BCE would ultimately lead to development of hubs and towns near its alignment. “It has been designed in such a manner that the ribbon form of development, along the road is not being encouraged. Tamil Nadu does not have such development. We do see a lot of open spaces along highway roads,” explained a planner. The road with its way-side facilities and elevated construction, would have something very new to offer for those taking the road to Bengaluru.
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